Today is International Women’s Day so I wanted to take the opportunity to review a book about trans women’s rights and how they are mistreated in society. As you celebrate on social media I would ask that you take a moment to make sure that the content you post is inclusive and that it doesn’t further transmisogynistic ideas.
Rep: MC is a Chinese trans girl, many other trans women (mostly POC, some sapphic), depression, addiction, trans guy (minor character)
CW: transphobia and homophobia (slurs to extreme violence), abuse, self-harm, sexual assault, police brutality, substance abuse
Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom is the highly sensational, ultra-exciting, sort-of true coming-of-age story of a young Asian trans girl, pathological liar, and kung-fu expert who runs away from her parents’ abusive home in a rainy city called Gloom. Striking off on her own, she finds her true family in a group of larger-than-life trans femmes who live in a mysterious pleasure district known only as the Street of Miracles. Under the wings of this fierce and fabulous flock, Dearly blossoms into the woman she has always dreamed of being, with a little help from the unscrupulous Doctor Crocodile. When one of their number is brutally murdered, the protagonist joins her sisters in forming a vigilante gang to fight back against the transphobes, violent johns, and cops that stalk the Street of Miracles. But when things go terribly wrong, she must find the truth within herself in order to stop the violence and discover what it really means to grow up and find your family.
This book deserves it’s 4.58 rating on Goodreads
I can’t find anything about this book that I don’t like.
The world is similar enough to our own that any parallel is easily observable and the fantastical elements elevate the book’s reality to a raw, more saturated version of what we are presented to be trans girl’s reality. Anytime something magical happens it makes the scene more complex by making the character’s inner turmoil visible.
The writing is impeccable. It felt like I was reading a fairytale, but a very believable fairytale. Every character felt like a real person and it didn’t take me long to start caring about the protagonist.
The fictional memoir format highlights the difficulties and injustices that trans women face without turning it into torture porn. They don’t go through hardships for our entertainment, but because those things are part of the character’s life. We don’t follow dolls who blindly follow the author’s whims, instead each character has agency and is free to make decisions, even if those choices end up to be mistakes.
Warning, in the next part I’ll be discussing the representation of self-harm
Self-harm is not a common subject in books, even those where mental illness plays a big role. It makes what is already an isolating disorder something taboo and shameful that should hide at all cost lest you want to be called weak and attention seeking.
In Fierce Femmes, self-harm is tackled through a series of poems, song of the pocket knife. Every part is incorporated into the narrative and they show the reality of self-injury: habit, recovery, relapse. It stays genuine without romanticization and it offers a hopeful outlook without being preachy.
This book has less than 500 ratings on Goodreads, but it deserves so much more praise.